Effects of digital technologies and social media on sexual behaviors among the youth at the College of Health Sciences university of Nairobi, Kenya.
Background: The use of digital communication technologies and social media has grown dramatically in the world including in Kenya. It has been suggested that the media influences people’s behaviors including sexual behaviors. Few studies have been done to investigate the effects of using these digital technologies and social media on sexual behaviors among the youth. Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the patterns of use and effects of using digital technologies and social media on sexual behaviors among the youth at the College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, Kenya. Methodology: This was a cross sectional descriptive study of undergraduate university students aged between 18 and 24 years. Quantitative data was obtained from 331 students using a self administered semi structured questionnaire. Four focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with 8 students in each discussion were conducted to obtain qualitative data. Quantitative data was analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software version 17, while qualitative data was analyzed using content analysis. Results: Mobile, internet enabled digital devices such as laptop computers (77%), cell phones with internet (58.5%), and Smartphones (46.2%) were the common digital devices owned and used by participants. Almost all participants (93.4% (n =309) had a profile on Facebook. Sending sexually suggestive messages (41.4%, n=136), meeting people in real life they first met on social media (43.5%, n= 144), and accessing pornographic materials online (36.3%, n= 120) were common activities participants reported doing on their devices and social media. Having multiple sexual partners was related to sending (p= 0.020, F), receiving (P= 0.010, F= 3.886) and sharing (p= 0.003, F= 4.718) of sexually suggestive messages on internet. Participants with multiple sexual partners also had ever met people in real life they only met on social media (p=0.002, F=5,126) and accessed pornographic materials on internet (p= 0.0001, F= 2.283). Use of laptops, cell phones without internet and smart phones was shown to have an effect on participant’s sexual behaviors such as having multiple sexual partners and inconsistent use of condoms. Conclusion: Ownership and use of mobile, internet enabled digital devices and social media is common among students at the college. Use of digital devices and exposure to sexually suggestive content on digital devices and social media is associated to risky sexual behaviors such as having multiple sexual partners and inconsistent use of condoms.